16 Pelham Place SW7
Oct 4, 1942
My dear Jim,
I was deeply touched by your letter - after all, there is no greater compliment any one can be paid than to be told by a youngster of 20 (? what are you) that he feels you have been able to take - if only in a very small way, the place of his father. And like all privileges, it carries great responsibility. I thought you wrote me a very charming letter, you were completely natural - consequently, you wrote very well. Remember that simplicity and sincerity always come through, and will always ‘win' through.
I was interested in what you said about you grandmother - it was a further confirmation of something I have observed. Always talk & behave towards anyone exactly as though they were your own age, be completely natural. Don't play ‘up' to old people or ‘down' to the young. Old people are often frail; therefore like a sick person of your own age, they may need a little more attention, or more help. So give to them because of their frailty, not because of their age. Young people - in particular children, cannot do some things because of their size or lack of strength. Help them over this difficulty: i.e. lift them up to see what is going on, or help them carry their heavy load. But do so because they are not tall enough or because they are not strong enough, not because they are 15 years younger that you are. You will win the hearts of children and grown ups if you do this, at least that is my experience.
I am rather amused about your admission often times told me about gambling. I had forgotten about it, but remembered when you mentioned it. I thought how very stupid - then remembering that everyone goes through stupid stages, I merely thought you had a lot to go through with, but would recover soon. With time it went out of my mind until brought back by your letter.
As for your life experiences, I agree with you and have always realised from what you have been to me - and from your own behavior, that your father and mother were very unusual people. Do you also realize that you life has been a unique experience? Do you realize that in 20 years, you know a great deal more about the ordinary things of life - or nature, than I have learnt in 49? As you have told me of what you have done, I have wished very much that I had had some of your life: with all its hardships. I was brought up in London - richly I admit, but I was London born & bred. I can't milk a cow, I hardly know one tree from another, I cannot tell one bird from another... I am useless at country life. We had no garden in which to play as children, we went for walks in Kensington Gardens - very formal walks, then more excitement to ‘bowl a hoop', I don't suppose you know what that is because you never see them today, but they were fun. To go for a weekend or half-term to stay with two maiden aunts who lived 20 kms. outside London & had a garden to their house in which we could play for 2 hours without our nurses watching was a great treat!!
I could write yards more in this series but it would prove nothing except that we have different experiences, I am in my environment in London, I know how and what because I have always lived here. But in the country I should be a fool. And in that I think you win for you know nature - a natural life whilst I know so-called civilization or town life - unnatural life, an artificial life. So surely it is I who will feel more embarrassed in the end.
Meantime do come see me when you will, and we will discuss this matter further.
Yours as ever,
PS. I am sending this letter with a copy of a short life of my father, a sort of memoir which my brother wrote. It is pleasantly written & is a good essay in Victorianism & may give you some idea of my ‘young life'.